Postcard from Nepal By Sam Anderson
I have never been overseas and didn’t imagine that my first trip would be to the Himalayas. As I was studying at BST in 2015, I was thinking and praying about missions. My New Testament Lecturer Dr Alan Stanley approached me early last year and asked if I would like to travel with him to Sri Lanka. He often travels with goEast to teach post-graduate students in Asia. I jumped at the opportunity to go, but the trip did not go ahead due to other commitments that came up for Alan. This was disappointing but I knew that even through those few months God was preparing me. God is sovereign in all he does and I recognised that my heart needed to be prepared to go overseas.
In semester two Alan approached me to join him on his teaching trip to Nepal. It was a place that intrigued me and so, once again, I jumped at the opportunity to go with Alan. He was scheduled to teach a two-week intensive on Spiritual Formation to a group of students studying for their Master of Divinity (MDiv) in Nepal. I thank God for my relationship with Alan, not only as he was my lecturer but someone I now consider a friend and mentor.
There were times when I just didn’t think that the trip to Nepal would be possible. I struggled financially to save for the trip, especially as I was still studying. However, I had to trust that God opened up this opportunity and that if he wanted me to go, he would provide. It was just two weeks out from the departure date and Alan told me that some very generous people donated money for the trip. My eyes welled up with tears and my heart filled with awe at the Heavenly Father’s provision and kindness. To this day I do not know who made the donation, but that act of love and generosity will stay with me for life—after all I was going to Nepal!
Brisbane airport was a buzz as we waited for our international flight. Having never flown internationally, I was beside myself—although I tried to keep my excitement contained considering my travel companion, Alan who often travelled overseas, seemed unphased by it all. I didn’t know what to expect at the other end. I pictured Nepal with snowcapped mountain peaks and small communities nestled in their shadows, and locals adorned with colourful clothing carrying baskets of goods.
When we got out of Kathmandu airport I was overwhelmed by what appeared to be utter chaos with the sea of people bustling past, cars everywhere and horns blaring. It was my first taste of culture shock. The whole car trip to our destination and during the first few days, I tried to come to grips with the densely populated surroundings and adapting to a culture that was completely different to what I knew. Although it all seemed crazy and new, I absolutely loved it!
As I adapted and gained confidence being in my new surroundings, I explored Kathmandu and observed people on the streets. I was struck by the real sense of community that existed among people in the houses and on the streets. It was a stark contrast to what I’ve experienced in Australia. And yet, although there was such hardship—even more so after the devastating earthquakes—there was a sense of joy and contentment. Their life wasn’t characterised by what they had, but with whom they shared it. The more I explored and made friends, I fell in love with the people and the Nepali way of life. I felt safe walking the streets and was greeted with friendly smiles and people willing to say “Hello”. I also got to know our host family very well and enjoyed the chats and some of the insight they shared.
The entire trip was life changing, one that I’ll never forget. While Alan was teaching I spent time getting to know the locals including a group of school kids. I played soccer with them every day. They also loved cricket but their bat was broken and they couldn’t afford to buy a new one. So I bought them a new cricket bat and some balls. When I showed them the new equipment they jumped all over me and ran around with excitement. It didn’t take long for a small crowd to gather and so we headed to the local playing field—which was just a dusty dry river bank—for a huge game of cricket. Spending time with those kids was a special experience. On one occasion I hired an indoor soccer centre where we played for two hours. That gave me an opportunity to share why Alan and I had come to Nepal, and to tell them about the church we were visiting. I also introduced them to one of the pastors from the church. It was wonderful to see God use sport as a way to bring people together.
I also had the opportunity to go with some of the members from the church and help with relief work in a village that had been badly affected by the earthquake. We drove for roughly four hours into the mountains to a remote village of about 150 people. The journey was like a scene from a movie as we rode on the back of a ute via rough and high terrains, staring down at cliffs on either side with enormous mountain peaks overshadowing us. The village was only accessible via a tiny goat track on the crest of a hill. To my relief, we made it there alive! Seeing the joy on the faces of the people as we handed them blankets and mattress foam was all worth it and something that will stay with me forever. These people had so little and were incredibly thankful for what they received. It put my life in perspective.
This trip caused me to think about how much we take for granted in the West. It is an effort just to take a shower in Nepal. People were lining up for one to two days to get fuel due to the fuel shortage and when they got the pump they were only allowed a few litres. In all this I didn’t see them grumbling or complaining even though their life was tough. People simply shared their lives with one another and reaped the benefits of a life lived in community.
But there is great spiritual need for Christ, especially in the context of their idols and ritualistic worship. Only two percent of Nepalis identifying as Christian. This was saddening and striking to me in so many ways, and made me realise their great need for Jesus. Through this experience God has given me a heart for missions and a desire to better equip myself for whatever he has for me.
From start to finish, this trip to Nepal with Alan was an incredible answer to prayer; from God’s provision and sovereignty in enabling me to go, to the incredible eye-opening opportunities that God enabled me to experience. I have gotten to know Alan a lot better and made life-long friendships and memories that will stay with me. What God has shown me on this trip will continue to impact my walk with him and my ministry in the years to come. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment and have been so greatly blessed by the love and support of all those around me. Thank you Alan and all those who walked this journey with us.